MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra's defense of its Governors' Cup title is going quite well so far, as the Gin Kings currently have the solo lead in the conference with a 6-1 win-loss record.
They have won six straight games, capped by an emotional 105-101 overtime triumph over rivals Star in the "Manila Clasico" on Sunday evening.
They had very little time to dwell on the crucial win over the Hotshots, however. Almost immediately after beating Star, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone acknowledged that his team is now bracing for what may just be a brutal weekend for the squad.
"We got Blackwater and San Miguel coming up, back-to-back," he pointed out.
Ginebra will face off against Blackwater on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena, and will only have a day's rest before returning to action on Sunday to take on San Miguel Beer in what will surely be a must-see match-up.
Neither Blackwater nor San Miguel is in the upper half of the league's standings – the Elite are in seventh place with a 4-4 slate, and the Beermen are in eighth place with their 3-3 record. Cone, however, warned that these records are quite deceiving.
"Blackwater is on a roll," he said. "They've won four of five (games), and San Miguel is looking to get on a run, so we got a couple of really tough teams."
Already, Cone is thinking of ways to match up against Blackwater import Henry Walker, who is averaging 30.8 points and 18.2 rebounds per game, and was at the forefront of the Elite's surge midway through the conference.
"Henry Walker has been awesome so far this conference. I don't know anybody who can match-up to him," he admitted.
The Blackwater game also gives Ginebra an immediate reunion with Dave Marcelo and Chris Ellis, who were traded to the Elite in exchange for Raymond Aguilar and Art dela Cruz.
"We know the kind of character that Chris and Dave have," said Cone. "They are both fighters, and they're going to get their teammates ready."
Perhaps the most challenging part of the schedule, however, is that they only have one day to turn around and prepare for San Miguel. The Beermen have lost back-to-back games and are still adjusting to a new import, but Cone remains wary of them – especially given the short prep time that they have.
"It seems like every time we play San Miguel, we only have one day of preparation," he noted. "It's been like that for the last five conferences."
"But we can't look past Blackwater, obviously," he added. "That will be our emphasis. They're playing way, way too well for us to look past them."
"We'll try to keep this thing going," Cone also said. "Big weekend for us."
Once Ginebra gets past this tough weekend, their remaining schedule is not exactly forgiving. The Gin Kings play Rain or Shine (4-2) and TNT (4-3) in their final two contests of the elimination round.
"All we got are really tough teams ahead of us," said Cone. "We beat the struggling teams, but now the teams… they're all ahead of us. So this (Manila Clasico) is a real test for us."
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